I want to bring this sport to a new level with the latest science has to offer, and I want you to ride along with me. Pull up a chair and get out your notebook. Mass Class is about to begin.
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By day, I’m a skeletal muscle physiologist in a laboratory at the University of Tampa. But I also have a secret—OK, it’s no secret. I absolutely love bodybuilding and lifting weights. Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a scientist studying sports performance, and bodybuilding in particular.
To me, bodybuilding is fascinating because it’s based on the ultimate dichotomy: gaining size and getting shredded at the same time. These shouldn’t mix, right? But they do, as we see in our lab on a regular basis.
At any given time, we’re doing approximately six experiments on bodybuilding. We can look at muscle from the bone to the skin; we can scan your whole body and tell you the most accurate ways to look at fat. You name it, we can analyze it.
I want to bring this sport to a new level with the latest science has to offer, and I want you to ride along with me.
Pull up a chair and get out your notebook. Mass Class is about to begin.
| What Makes Muscle Grow? |
If you look at all the scientific literature, you’ll see we’ve narrowed down how muscle grows to at least 3-4 different mechanisms. You’ll hear people say, “Oh, so-and-so is the best training method,” but that method might only maximize one of those mechanisms. When you’re training for maximum growth, periodize your training so you can optimize each of these mechanisms.
1. Cell Swelling
2. Mechanical Tension
3. Mechanical Trauma
4. Metabolic Stress
| What Am I Doing Wrong |
I think the biggest mistake people make is underestimating their capabilities. They limit themselves mentally, and that leads to limiting themselves physically.
For example, I can’t tell you how many times I hear or read things like, “Oh my God, I’m going to overtrain, so I can only train everything once a week.” However, studies are showing that the more frequently you train, the better your gains will be. Sometimes when you have an overload on the muscle every day your performance is not going to be the best, but you are beating the muscle up so much, it has no choice but to grow.
There are new studies coming out by some of my colleagues in Finland and Norway where they show incredible gains from weightlifters who change from three days per week of training to six days per week of training per body part.
That’s an advanced technique that isn’t appropriate for everyone, but the larger point is this: Don’t limit yourself. The human body can withstand a lot more than you think, so long as your nutrition and sleep are in place.
| Compound or Isolation |
When the goal is mass and creating the most anabolism (protein synthesis), compound movements that hit muscle groups should always be the center of a bodybuilding program. That’s going to be things like squats, bench presses, and leg presses.
But make no mistake; there is a difference between bodybuilding and powerlifting. Namely, bodybuilding is about making exercises harder. You’re trying to beat your muscles up. If you’re doing a bench press and you’re bodybuilding, your back might be flat, you’ll focus on the muscle, and on every aspect of the lift. If you are a powerlifter, you’re going to get an arch in your back, shorten the range of motion, and use more leg drive.
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